“From strategy to milestones and everything in between”

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What does portfolio management look like?

Let’s start with what it doesn’t look like… It’s not just a big project, or even a collection (portfolio) of projects.  Portfolio Management is the discipline behind ensuring that our clients invest in the right initiatives that will deliver maximum capability aligned to the organisation’s strategy.  It is guiding the client to invest in the right delivery initiatives.  “Getting the bang for your buck” – who doesn’t want that when times are hard?  So, it is truly covering delivery disciplines “from Strategy to milestones and everything in-between”.   It demands all disciplines within MIGSO-PCUBED (MP) to come together into a whole….as we shall see later.  There is no app or tool to do this for you for this – successful portfolios rely on human expertise and endeavour to achieve the required delivery outcomes.

Introducing the ATLAS Team

The MP team has six members that cover portfolio leadership, portfolio definition, business change, and delivery.  They hold distinct but complimentary roles and work alongside two client staff members to form a blended team of eight delivery professionals. 

This is the case for one of our public sector clients, where our MP team is embedded.  This team, called ATLAS, delivers a portfolio delivery capability to the client, defined by 3 components:

  1. Portfolio Definition seeks to identify a broad range of opportunities in which to invest so that the customer can achieve its delivery outcomes aligned to strategic objectives.
  2. Portfolio Delivery incorporates the controls required to ensure the portfolio is delivering as planned.
  3. Initiative Delivery is important because the client desires to stay close to the supply chain to monitor, lead and influence the delivery of capability.

We developed a tailored framework to guide us through the engagement.

Project Portfolio Management Framework defined by three components.

Setting up for success

So, how do you set up a portfolio? You focus on:

  1. Ensuring alignment of portfolio investment with the Corporation’s strategy.  
  2. Understanding the client environment, using systems thinking to help simplify the otherwise complex.
  3. Tailor a delivery framework, taking best practice from across the professional bodies of knowledge (PMI, APM and Axelos) and having all these elements in the ATLAS “DNA”.
  4. Implementing sound governance and controls early in the lifecycle – no matter how painful – to collate the right information so that data-driven decisions can be made by the right people at the right time.
  5. Keeping the change management discipline front and centre of all we do from the beginning, driving transparency in messaging (a stakeholder engagement approach) and effective communications.
  6. Embedding a benefits management approach to measure the value that’s being delivered, and using this to shape portfolio definition, course correcting to ensure that the outcomes remain aligned to the corporate strategy.
  7. Remaining adaptive – things change, and the portfolio will need to respond to these.

Getting the IPA Green!

The IPA is the UK Government’s centre of expertise for infrastructure and major projects, acting as an independent assurance body to review major government projects and reporting into the UK Cabinet Office and Treasury.  The ATLAS team have recently been through their third annual Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) review.  Following the last 2 reviews, ATLAS has been classed as GREEN (on the RAG delivery risk assessment rating) by the IPA.  Described as an “exemplar in UK Government” and highly commended for their standard of portfolio documentation and delivery excellence for the client.  The IPA reported that:

“The portfolio is well run, and the processes are constantly improving…This is a success that should be celebrated and used as an exemplar.”

Lessons from the experience have been incorporated into MP’s new Delivery Excellence initiative, which will provide impartial internal reviews and recommendations to engagement teams across the business.

Maintaining the Team

The Team is critical to this, and ultimately there is a culture of looking out for each other and developing each other as professionals and people.  It is great to be in a high performing MIGSO-PCUBED Team embedded into the client’s organisation.  In summary:

  • Be willing to take yourself to the next level, study your profession as well as tailor and apply it to the client environment.
  • Become the trusted advisors to the client(s). There is no greater accolade than hearing “go talk to the MP team”.
  • Be humble and maintain the humility to question yourself and adapt.
  • Embrace independent reviews, as they contribute to continuous improvement, and give reassurance to the client and the delivery team.
  • Develop resilience; you know you are doing a great job, bounce back with renewed energy to carry on.

We look forward to welcoming the IPA back next year.  Only 11% of IPA reviews are GREEN – so we are (currently) in good company!